Two Connecticut hospitals, including the Connecticut Children's Medical Center in Hartford, are treating suspected cases Enterovirus D68, the mysterious respiratory illness that has hospitalized children in a dozen states, according to a spokesperson for the hospital.
"We can confirm that we are treating children with respiratory illnesses at Connecticut Children's who have exhibited symptoms of Enterovirus D68," said hospital spokesman Bob Fraleigh, in a statement Friday night. "At this point it is important to note they are possible cases, not confirmed cases. We will not know anything further until the CDC has had the opportunity to run their tests and then communicate those results back to us."
Hospital officials at Connecticut Children's said lately they've seen an unusual increase in the number of children being rushed to the emergency room with respiratory symptoms and that 8-10 children may have contracted the virus.
Enteroviruses "circulate every single year around this time" and are "fairly common," according to Dr. Ulysses Wu, chief of infectious diseases for St. Francis Hospital. The D-68 strain is affecting kids across the country.
"They're not that big of a deal. I think it's catching a lot of attention because it produces a different type of illness in the sense taht it's not just a summer cold. A lot of these children have been coming in wheezing," Wu said.
Enterovirus 68 could be particularly dangerous for kids who have asthma and/or other respiratory illnesses, but Wu said not to panic because most cases are mild and resolve quickly.
"Similar to the common cold, you would give supportive treatment, symptomatic treatment," wu said. "The problem is that in some kids, especially asthmatic, they may have what we call low oxygen levels in their blood."
Enterovirus 68 presents like a bad cold or flu, according to doctors. Symptoms include high fever, runny nose, sneezing, couging, wheezing and difficulty breathing, according to the CDC. No fatalities have been linked to Enterovirus 68.
Children exhibiting symptoms of the virus have been tested for Enterovirus D68 and will receive the results on Monday, according to Connecticut Children's.
"In some cases, it would require oxygen, and it would require hospitalization and breathing treatments," said Dr. Juan Salazar of Connecticut Children's.
Bill Gerrish, of the state Department of Public Health, said Connecticut Children's isn't the only hospital treating possible cases of Enterovirus.
"The Connecticut Department of Public Health (DPH) has received reports from two hospitals in different parts of the state of clusters of severe respiratory illness among young children that could be due to enterovirus D68," Gerrish said in a statement Friday, adding that the DPH is facilitating tests to make specific diagnoses.
There is no known vaccine for the illness, which was first identified in California in 1962, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
A total of 97 confirmed cases have been reported around the country from mid-August to Sept. 12, according to Gerrish. Affected states include Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky and Missouri.
The disease most commonly affects children and teenagers, especially those with asthma. It's spread through saliva and mucus, and officials say schools can serve as incubators.
"The DPH has asked clinicians to consider laboratory testing of respiratory specimens for enteroviruses when the cause of infection in severely ill patients is unclear, and to report clusters of severe respiratory illnesses to their local public health agency and DPH," Gerrish said.
Salazar advises parents to contact their child's primary care doctor if their child has difficulty breathing or a high fever and they have concerns.
"This is the beginning of an epidemic and everyone has to be mindful of that," Salazar said.